When I learned as a young man that I had been born on Betty Ford’s birthday, I saw it is a good sign. I always admired the class with which she handled her role as the nation’s first lady, taking over the very year she expected her husband would retire from politics. And she set an example by her public battles, first with breast cancer, then later, after her husband left politics, with her addiction to alcohol and pain killers.
And she used what she learned in her own struggle to help others, helping found in 1982 in the Betty Ford Center, a Alcohol Addiction and Drug Addiction Treatment in Rancho Mirage, California. That accomplished woman died on Friday Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
Former President George H. W. Bush called her “a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady. . . . No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced.”
And she always spoke her mind. Yet, her class, along with her husband’s Midwestern decency, helped the nation recover from Watergate. As first lady, she seemed to rise above politics. People may have attacked her husband, but they admired her, her simple elegance, her pleasant demeanor.
Deeply saddened by the news, the newly nonagenarian Nancy Reagan reminded us that her fellow first lady “was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history“. Indeed, the woman born Elizabeth Bloomer may well have been the only first lady to have delivered her husband’s concession speech. That good man had lost his voice, barnstorming the country in the final days of the 1976 campaign.
They were married for 58 years until the 38th president’s death in December 2006
She will be missed, but her example will inspire all of us.